Saturday, June 24, 2023
All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him. The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel. Luke 1:65–66
John the Baptist was formed by the hand of the Lord. Saint Thomas Aquinas goes so far as to say that John was sanctified in the womb of his mother, Elizabeth, as is written: “He will be filled with the holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15). From the moment that the Blessed Virgin Mary greeted Elizabeth and John leaped for joy, the hand of the Lord was upon John, making him holy and leading him to the fulfillment of God’s holy will.
John’s early life is not recorded for us, other than in the passage quoted above. We are told that he “grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel.” We should see in this passage the truth that John was not only sanctified within the womb of his mother but that, throughout his childhood and on into adulthood, he remained deeply united to God and was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Today we honor one particular aspect of John’s life—his birth. We know that he was blessed to not only be born into the blessed family of Elizabeth and Zechariah but that the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, was also his relative and was present at his birth. Zechariah, his father, gave him the name “John” even though it would have been the custom to call him Zechariah after his father. Zechariah did this in obedience to the Archangel Gabriel, who appeared to him prior to John’s birth and instructed him to do so.
Great mystery and excitement surrounded the birth of John, and there is little doubt that those who were present at his birth would have been caught up in the intrigue and hope of who he would become. And John didn’t disappoint. It was of him that Jesus one day would say, “I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John…” (Luke 7:28).
Though you may not have had the privilege of being sanctified in the womb of your mother, or to have had your father receive a revelation from the Archangel Gabriel prior to your birth, you are, nonetheless, called to be guided by the hand of the Lord each and every day. God wants you to become “strong in spirit” so that you can fulfill the unique will given to you. We honor the great saints, in part, because they give us an example of how to live. For that reason, we must see in each of their lives the model to which we must conform. The primary witness set by Saint John the Baptist is that he was unwaveringly obedient to God and to being formed by His hand. The result was the glorious fulfillment of his unique mission in life, all the way to giving his life as a martyr.
Reflect, today, upon the very real fact that, though you were not sanctified in the womb, you were sanctified by Baptism. From there, you were strengthened by the Spirit through Confirmation and are regularly fed by the Most Holy Eucharist. In many ways, you are just as blessed as John. Reflect upon the simple yet profound fact that God wants to use you for His holy mission. He gives to you some particular mission He has not entrusted to another. Say “Yes” to that mission today so that you, too, will be seen as “great” in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Lord of all greatness, You sanctified Saint John the Baptist in the womb, and You continued to pour forth Your grace upon him throughout his life. He responded to You and fulfilled his glorious mission. I thank You for the sanctification given to me by my Baptism and strengthened through Confirmation and the Holy Eucharist. Help me to be open to all the graces You wish to bestow so that I may fulfill the unique mission given to me. Jesus, I trust in You.
Further Reading – Nativity of Saint John the Baptist